Showing posts with label Poland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poland. Show all posts

Monday, April 08, 2013

Does the Veikkausliiga need changing?

Quite the debate has been raging over the winter, on Twitter and in the media. Does the Finnish league need to evolve to compete? The matter has reached the mainstream on Sunday, where Veikkausliiga CEO Timo Marjamaa's comments about providing more meaningful domestic games was discussed on YLE.

Marjamaa's theory is that if the league is to improve (in comparison to other European leagues), then the Veikkausliiga matches need to be at a higher level, that the games are more meaningful, and that the players are developed as a result.

But to what end does the league need to change? In 2011, the league moved from a straight 14-team, 28-game league, to a 12-team, 33-match division. The current structure is inconsistent, and while it's financially advantageous (more games to earn money), it's unusual and can be accused of being advantageous to certain teams.

KuPS fans watch from above the snow (photo via Vartaloharhautus)

The climate is the major obstacle to an extension of the season - April to October is fine when the weather is fine, but it's still snowing in April, to the point where KuPS are looking for volunteers to help clear snow in the stands prior to the season opener against MYPA. Not every club can afford to install artificial turf, and even when they do, there's no guarantee that it's perfect. The synthetic turf at MYPA's home didn't cope well with being heated, to the point the turf raised 50cm off the ground in places.

The Kymenlaakson Sähkö Stadion turf resembling a golf course in March

So what are the alternatives? Playing within six summer months is restrictive, but here are some of the other alternative league structures used in Europe. Bear in mind most of these formats are used in the winter...

Poland (current UEFA ranking 21st)

The Polish Ekstraklasa has recently announced a change for the 2013-14 season. Sixteen clubs will play each other twice, then split into two sections of eight. Each team will play seven matches, and start with half of their already accrued points. Each team will finish the season playing 37 matches, and the likely scenario that 9th will have more points than 8th.

Belgium (10th)

The Jupiler Pro League also has 16 sides, and after the thirty matches, it gets confusing. The top six enter play-off 1, play each other twice, the top team wins the league. Teams 7-14 enter play-off 2 (split into two groups of four), and the winners of each group play each other over two legs for a chance to play the team which finished 4th or 5th in play-off one, with the winner getting a Europa League place. A bit too complicated I think.

Scotland (24th)

Twelve teams play in the Scottish Premier League, and the teams play their rivals three times. After 33 matches, the league splits into two. The SPL seeds teams in a way that they are likely to play teams twice at home and twice away. Again, the team in 7th is likely end with more points than 6th. There are currently steps to restructure the whole league set-up, but the clubs cannot come to an agreement at this time.


Obviously the Veikkausliiga will start this coming weekend as planned. But it seems the discussions on how to improve the structure will roll on. Finland are currently ranked 33rd by UEFA - not far from 32nd (Azerbaijan), but a long way behind Georgia in 31st.

I don't think expanding the top division would work, certainly to more than 14 teams. The gulf between top and bottom appears to be large enough already. A play-off at the end of the season would certainly bring some drama, but would make a mockery of the 'marathon not a sprint' ethos. A team consistently better over the season could lose the title to a team who hit a freak patch of good form.

It's hard to judge a league other than performances in Europe. Last season's Finnish competitiors all got through at least one round, but mostly against teams from weaker leagues. As Scotland show, even one team outperforming the others only goes so far (Celtic reached the last 16 this year).